July’s NICU family is another amazing story. I was connected through Meghan when we did our news story with Channel 3000 for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. Meghan and Brian told their story the week before for the same channel. Their story started out very much like ours, with their daughter being born just under 25 weeks, but thankfully their daughter Nora survived. Nora’s story shows the amazing things that can be done in medicine today. Even though Nora spent five months in the NICU, she is a happy healthy two year old today. Thank you Meghan for sharing your story. I hope that with each story we can raise more awareness of just how long and difficult the journey with a preemie in the NICU can be.
My name is Meghan Visger and I know what it is like to have a micro-preemie in the NICU. My husband, Brian, and I had been married for two years. We are both teachers just north of Madison. In the spring of 2008, Brian and I learned that we were going to have our first child in the beginning of January, 2009. We were both elated. In August we found out that it was going to be a girl. By September I was starting to show and the baby was even starting to kick a little. I was having the perfect pregnancy. There weren’t any complications. I wasn’t even getting sick. We were so excited.
In the middle of the night on September 20th I started having what I thought were symptoms of a bladder infection so we stopped at the hospital in Portage to get checked out and get some antibiotics. They told us that there were some more significant issues going on and that we should drive down to St. Mary’s where we would hopefully get everything back to normal. When we got there, we were still under the impression that they’d be able to fix whatever was going on and the pregnancy would continue like normal. Within an hour we learned that that wasn’t going to happen.
When the doctor showed us the images that showed that the amniotic fluid was gone our hearts sank. He confirmed our fears when he explained that I had gone in to labor the previous night and the baby was not only going to be born early, but was going to be born very soon. I was only 24 weeks and 4 days along.
They moved us in to a birthing suite and had Dr. Wiringa, one of the neonatologists at St. Mary’s, come to talk to us. She has an excellent bedside manner and has an amazing ability to put even the worst news gently, but her gentle words fell on us like bombs. She explained that our baby had about a fifty percent chance of survival, and that if she did survive, about a two out of three chance of having some developmental disabilities. We couldn’t believe what was happening. We couldn’t cry…we felt numb. She told us that she had delivered a lot of preterm babies and that she would have a good sense if our daughter had a chance of survival when she came out. We told her that if she had any chance that we wanted them to do as much as they could. Right then I said I had to go to the bathroom, and that’s when it all happened. I noticed I could see the umbilical cord.
I called for help and the next thing I knew they were whisking me to the O.R. on a hospital bed to do an emergency c-section. I started sobbing and screaming “NO” and “WHY?”. Brian ran alongside me feeling as scared and helpless as he’s ever felt in his whole life. When we got to the doors of the O.R. they said Brian couldn’t go any farther and he stood there as they all hurried around the corner and out of sight.
After a short while one of the residents found Brian in the birthing room and asked him if he wanted to see his daughter. He thought it might be his only chance. They gave him a gown and gloves and he went and met his daughter. She was so tiny. She had ten fingers and ten toes. All the parts were there. Dr. Wiringa told him to hold her hand. She was 13 inches long and weighed one pound-nine ounces. They wheeled her in to the NICU while I recovered. Brian sent a text to almost everyone we knew and asked them to pray. When I woke up they wheeled my bed into the NICU where I got to hold Nora’s tiny hand. It was such a mix of emotions. I had always wanted so badly to be a mom but I was terrified of what laid ahead.
They told us it was an infection that caused her to be born early. I think on the third or fourth day in the hospital we decided to name her Nora Gayle. We remember feeling that it was so unfair that we had to go through this and that Nora had to fight so hard and might never have a normal life….I mean, I thought had done everything right with my pregnancy.
Nora was very small and very sick. We visited every day after work, unless we were sick, and the NICU became our home away from home. We became so familiar with the sounds and smells of the place. We would call every day from work to check in and see how she was doing. It was so frustrating as one thing after another seemed to hold her back and so scary when she would get tested for cerebral hemorrhaging or would have to have her ventilator or oxygen turned up. She also acquired many infections. She was on ventilator for eight weeks. We didn’t even get to hold her until she was four weeks old. That was a great day. Her nurse, Jamie, saved her bath until we got there so we could hold her. It was unbelievable holding her for the first time. Brian took all kinds of pictures. Once Nora was finally off the ventilator we were able to hear her cry for the first time and hold her everyday. We started doing Kangaroo Care where we would hold her skin to skin. This was a wonderful bonding experience. The weeks turned to months and Nora slowly improved. Nora finally came home February 24, 2009, over five months after she was born.
When we finally took her home it was just surreal. We were so happy to bring her home but also kind of sad to say goodbye to the nurses, doctors and staff at the NICU who had done so much for us and for Nora. We had really grown to care about them. Nora came home on oxygen and had a feeding tube and an apnea monitor. She also had some hernias that would need to be operated on. It was a lot of work at first but eventually life became more and more normal. Nora is now a normal, healthy two-year-old. Her lungs are still a little fragile and colds hit her especially hard, but all things considered, she’s an absolute miracle…one that we thank God for every single day.